Plans to axe NHS Direct helpline revealed

The NHS Direct medical advice helpline is facing the cosh in government plans to scrap the service.

The website equivalent, however, will remain, as will the phone helpline service in Scotland and Wales.

The service – which this year cost £123 million to run – is to be replaced with a new free 111 phoneline, which is being trialled in the north-east of England and will be rolled out over a three-year period.

NHS Direct is well used – around 14,000 people call the number every day, but the service has had a mixed response from the medical profession.

The plans to axe NHS Direct were revealed by health secretary Andrew Lansley last week.

NHS Direct provides expert health advice and information to callers, as well as out-of-hours support for GPs and dental services, telephone support for patients with long-term conditions, and pre- and post-operative support for patients.

The Department of Health said ‘many’ of the services offered by NHS Direct included in the 111 service, which provides health advice and information about out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and 24-hour chemists.

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